Japan has a bit of a reputation for okaying things that might seem a little strange to the outside eye. But what’s odd elsewhere may be the complete norm over here, and that’s why no one even batted an eyelid when adorable San-X fictional character, Rilakkuma was chosen as Saitama’s prefectural Police Traffic Safety Public Relations Ambassador.
The commissioning of Rilakkuma into the role is part of the "National Traffic Safety Campaign in the Fall of Reiwa 3”, which was implemented from September 21.
As part of the role, we can expect to see Rilakkuma promoting traffic safety through posters, videos and media posts on popular sns such as Twitter and instagram.
This wouldn’t be the first time a kawaii mascot or character has been placed in a position of importance, with Pokemon’s Slowpoke having previously been named as Kagawa Prefecture’s official prefectural governor on April fools back in 2018 – though more recently, the Pokémon character has taken on roles more closely related to his origins. Another great example is Pokemon’s Lapras, who has been named as Miyagi prefecture’s official tourism ambassador.
Though similar, these examples (including Rilakkuma’s new role as Saitama’s prefectural Police Traffic Safety Public Relations Ambassador) differ from Japan’s use of Yuru Kyara in that these characters are already in existence. You can probably easily name a few of Japan’s Yuru Kyara; some of the most famous include Kumamoto prefecture’s Kumamon, NHK’s Domo-kun and Hokkaido's Melon Kuma.
As Rilakkuma settles into their new role of Saitama’s prefectural Police Traffic Safety Public Relations Ambassador, and with so many other cute characters securing governmental positions, we can’t help but wonder if/or when Japan plans to one day elect a mascot as prime minister. After all, would it be so odd?
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